As Kiev erupts in flames and to cries of “Glory to Ukraine!” law firms and others are leaving town, or at least closing their offices temporarily.
The city is now seeing thousands of riot police armed with stun grenades and water cannons launching an attack upon the protest camp near the city center after a grisly day of street fighting that left 18 people dead and many hundreds injured, many seriously.
The violence in Kiev is the deadliest and most dangerous in nearly three months of anti-government protests that have paralyzed Ukraine’s capital in a major battle over the nation’s identity. The fighting is the worst the country has seen since it left the Soviet Union and it has left businesses and their lawyers deeply concerned.
Global law firm Clifford Chance issued a statement saying their office in the city has been temporarily closed.
Our team is continuing to support clients and remains available through landlines, mobile numbers and email addresses.
We will continue to keep the situation under review and will re-open the office as soon as appropriate.
The Gazette reports that tensions had soared after Russia said Monday that it was ready to resume providing the loans that Yanukovych’s government needs to keep Ukraine’s ailing economy afloat. This raised fears among the opposition that Yanukovych had made a deal with Moscow to stand firm against the protesters and would choose a Russian-leaning loyalist to be his new prime minister.
The protests began in late November after Yanukovych turned away from a long-anticipated deal with the European Union in exchange for a $15 billion bailout from Russia. The political maneuvering continued, however, with both Moscow and the West eager to gain influence over this former Soviet republic.
Until Monday, the government and the opposition had appeared to be making some progress toward resolving the political crisis peacefully. In exchange for the release of scores of jailed activists, protesters on Sunday vacated a government building that they had occupied since Dec. 1.
Russia also may have wanted to see Kiev remain calm through the Winter Olympics in Sochi, so as not to distract from President Vladimir Putin’s games. But after the outburst of violence against riot police, Yanukovych’s government may have felt it had no choice but to try to restore order.
While Kiev and western Ukraine have risen up against Yanukovych, he remains popular in the Russian-speaking eastern and southern regions, where economic and cultural ties with Russia are strong.